As the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing approaches, members of Boston's Old South Church United Church of Christ have mixed feelings. Some are facing the anniversary with a spirit of defiance and determination, some feel a growing sense of unease and foreboding, and for others it is a time of grievous loss, said the church's pastor, the Rev. Nancy Taylor. But the church, located about 100 feet from the marathon's finish line, where the bombs went off on April 15, 2013, will choose to celebrate the tenacity of the human spirit through the Marathon Scarf Project, an effort to wrap each runner of this year's race in love, hope and prayer.
"As we approach the first anniversary, feelings are complicated," said Taylor. "Every athlete competing in this year's Boston Marathon is facing down fear and defying it. These scarves, knitted with prayers of love and courage, will literally enfold the athletes, touching their skin and blessing them on their way."
The Marathon Scarf Project is organized by members of the Old South Knitters, the church's group of about 30 knitters, crocheters and weavers. The group is collecting handmade scarves in the colors of royal blue and yellow, the official colors of the Boston Marathon, measuring approximately 4-6 inches wide and 60 inches long. (Organizers suggest using the official Boston Athletic Association colors Pantone 109C and Pantone 294C as a guide.)
Scarves will be accepted until Saturday, April 5 and can be sent to Old South Church. Each scarf will be presented to a runner at Old South Church's annual Blessing of the Athletes during two services on Sunday, April 20, the day before the marathon, which also falls on Easter Sunday.
"The service is tied in with the marathon – we have the runners stand and the congregation blesses them and wishes them Godspeed and a safe run," said Diane Gaucher, an Old South Knitter who is helping to oversee the project. "We thought it would be such a nice gesture to give them something extra this year and wrap them in our love."
The Marathon Scarf Project was inspired by the Synod Scarf Project, which encouraged UCC members to send handmade rainbow-colored scarves to General Synod 2013 in Long Beach, Calif., as a stand against the bullying of LGBT youth. Gaucher said she has no idea how many knitters will participate or how many scarves they will collect. But she says the fact that the Synod Scarf Project collected more than 10,000 scarves – greatly surpassing its goal of 3,000 – is a good sign that Old South will have plenty of scarves to distribute.
"It's a big leap of faith – until the scarves actually come in, we won't really know how many we will get," she said. "But there are 35,000 runners this year, so bring on the scarves. We will distribute every last one of them."
The Marathon Scarf Project is just one of several ways Old South Church will recognize the bombing's first anniversary. On April 8, the church will conduct a memorial installation of the blue and gold banners that overlooked the marathon's finish line the day of the bombing, as well as the peace cranes that were delivered to Old South Church from Newtown (Conn.) Congregational Church in the bombing's aftermath. These items will be displayed until April 22. On April 15, the church will hold a service of Remembrance and Hope with music, prayers, readings and reflection.
To participate in the Marathon Scarf Project, ship your blue and yellow scarves to Old South Church, 645 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. Questions about the project should be directed to Old South Church: 617-536-1970.
"Through the Marathon Scarf Project, Old South Knitters are doing what they do best: weaving messages into textiles," Taylor said. "Every athlete is staking his or her life on the proposition that the world's oldest peaceful, international competition—a competition requiring only the spare form of the human body, a competition requiring no protective gear, a competition often won by persons from among the poorest nations on earth—is a sacred and worthy undertaking."